The USC Upstate men’s basketball team begins its 49th season on the hardwood Friday evening as it travels to Texas A&M to face the Aggies at 9:30 p.m. EST inside Reed Arena in its 2015-16 season opener.
Upstate is facing Texas A&M for the first time in program history Friday evening and is aiming for its third straight victory over an SEC opponent in the last three seasons. The Spartans earned their first-ever win over an SEC school in 2013-14 with a 74-68 victory at South Carolina and followed that with a 53-51 win against Mississippi State last season. In the last two seasons combined, Upstate has also earned victories over Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.
The 49th season of Spartan basketball will get underway on Friday as Upstate looks to pick up its 31st season-opening victory in program history. The Spartans are 30-18 all-time in season openers dating back to the 1967-68 campaign. Since moving to Division I in 2007-08, Upstate has started its season away from the Hodge Center all but one time, which came last season as it defeated Florida A&M 78-65.
The Spartans are beginning their season against an SEC opponent for the third time since moving to Division I with the last coming in 2011-12 at Arkansas. Upstate also started its 2008-09 season on the road against Georgia.
Last season, the Spartans won a Division I era record 24 games as they went 24-12 overall and made their first-ever appearance in the A-Sun Tournament Championship game. Upstate went 8-6 in the A-Sun to finish third in the conference standings.
The Spartans return one starter from last year’s team in junior Michael Buchanan who averaged 8.1 points and 5.8 rebounds, ranking second in the league with a 55.3% field goal percentage and sixth in rebounding.
Upstate also returns seven letterwinners, along with Buchanan, in Josh Cuthbertson, Damian Goodwin, Jacob Schulte, Tristan Thomas, Marvin Smith and Ramel Thompkins. Seven newcomers arrive in Jure Span, Tanner Castora, Deion Holmes, Carson Smith, Phillip Whittington, Blake Edwards and Malik Moore.
The Spartans must replace four starters in Ty Greene, Mario Blessing, Fred Miller and ShunQuez Stephens.
Texas A&M posted a 21-12 record last season and went 11-7 in SEC play. The Aggies have three starters returning in Alex Caruso, Danuel House and Jalen Jones; and have six other players back while bringing in six newcomers. Texas A&M is led by fifth-year head coach Billy Kennedy.
Fans can follow the action on www.upstatespartans.com via live stats. The game is being televised on SEC Network + with Will Johnson serving as the play-by-play announcer and Dr. John Thornton the color analyst. Updates will also be posted on the Upstate men’s basketball Twitter page (@UPSTMBB).
The Spartans continue their season-opening road trip Monday evening at 7 p.m. against Presbyterian College.